By Getahun Legesse @Birmaduu2
Addis Abeba – A government official and residents told Addis Standard that members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group operating against government forces in Oromia region, and often referred to as “Shene” by the government, broke into a zonal correction facility in Bule Hora town, in West Guji Zone, Southern Oromia, on Saturday 07 January 2023 and set more than 480 prisoners free.
Both the government official and residents recounted that the rebel forces broke into a zonal facility which is found in Goro Gudina village, and carried out offensives against the security guards of the center on Saturday night at around midnight.
Deputy mayor of Bule Hora town Girja Urago told Addis Standard that members of the rebel group broke into the correction facility after they killed five members of the security guards who were on duty.
“Some members of the rebel group carried out a systematic operation to break into the correction center, killed five security guards of the correction center and set about 480 to 500 prisoners free,” Girja said.
According to the official, the rebel forces did not engage or defeat the government forces operating in the area, they rather systematically broke into the correction facility. However, a resident who lives near the overrun prison told Addis Standard that there was an intense fighting between the forces in the area.
“The gun shot started at about 11:30PM and continued to 3:30 AM. There was a heavy fighting between the forces. They [rebel forces] broke into the correction center after they prevail over the government forces,” said a resident who asked to be anonymous.
Another witness corroborated the same account of events, adding that the persisting insecurity in the zone has led to mass displacement and related humanitarian crises such as malnutrition for over two years.
On 03 January, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) said a renewed military operation in southern Oromia aiming to destroying the rebel group operating in the area and stabilizing the region has been successful, and that it has liberated several villages in Southern Oromia.
Over the last few weeks, members of the national parliament elected from Oromia have been calling on the government to find a peaceful path to end the war in Oromia and called all stakeholders including community members and elders to put pressure on both the government and the militants to end the war.
But both the federal and the Oromia regional governments repeatedly announced that it will not sit down for talks with militants it says “have no political agenda”, but will welcome those who come putting their weapons down. The armed rebels on their part have been saying that they will negotiate in the presence of a credible third party.
OLA did not respond to Addis Standard’s inquiry to comment on the attack on the Bule Hora correction facility and the subsequent killing of security guards and the release of detainees. AS